When to Engage in Promising Hotspots for Business Development
(part three: the enablers)
Ewoud Liberg, October 1st 2015
You know what a hotspot is and why it is relevant from a business developer’s point of view (part one). You also know if there is a hotspot (forming) under your organization’s base because you get it on your radar (part two). Now you need to find out if your organization or business unit is ready to start renovating or innovating products or services. I will focus on the five most important criteria which I call my innovation-enablers.
Business development is a solution for pain that started very lightly and keeps coming back. When the pain comes back it hurts more and it seems that the intervals are shorter every time. Optimizing and tweaking usually solved the pain, but it just doesn’t work as well as it used to. Management teams are developing new parameters to get more control and new targets are set. Stress is building up slowly… especially for middle management. The boardroom thinks that some managers should be replaced. A mix of a little chaos, stress and some panic.
Now you need to find the one who really feels the pain, has enough influence on decision-making and who is willing to try something else. You don’t find this problem owner in the lower echelon, because the problem cannot be solved on that level due to a lack of influence. First, get insight into the main policy influencers, then try to find out who is really engaged with the company’s success. Look for the one who wants to listen to different approaches to a well known and repetitive problem he or she really feels. Try to get into a conversation with this person. This is probably the problem owner with whom you can get things done.
The second criterion is that the problem owner himself must realize that a hotspot is forming/emerging. He or she should be somewhat convinced that something fundamental has been set in motion that calls for more drastic measures than tuning and tweaking. Sometimes an organization is in ‘denial’. They think that this shaking will probably stop after a while or that the effect of it is overrated. “This is business as usual, don’t worry, let’s start a new campaign, this will blow over and after a while you will forget about this meeting.”
If this is the case, it often does not make sense to deal with it in your conversation with this problem owner. It does not even help to offer a risk calculation. If there is no sense of urgency, business development has no chance at all. The only thing you can do is wait until the smoldering fire grows larger and the problem owner realizes that if nothing real is done, this will develop in a raging one. If that happens hope there is still some time and money left.
The third criterion is that the organization still needs to have enough resources to set fundamental changes in motion including implementation and commercialization. Why is this a risk? Well, a nasty characteristic of a hotspot is that it is not always obvious that you are on top of it. Symptoms such as sales decline or a new competitor from an unexpected source, do not always mean that a hotspot is forming under your organization’s base. The risk is that the company realizes this too late and your company has already spent too much money on promotional activities to try to keep the lost patient alive. The hotspot turns out to be there, resources have been spent on the wrong activities, profit is declining and so is the number of customers. This is a doom scenario for business development.
If the whirlpool flushed your organization or business unit right next to the drain, there is no time, no people and no money to invest in a route towards a bright future. The organization could hope for a miracle to happen but is forced to stop draining the swamp when they’re “up to their ass in alligators”. The staff hopes the organization will be taken over by a forgiving competitor and the business unit hopes for interesting jobs somewhere else within the organization.
If you have found an apparent problem owner, sense of urgency, and the availability of resources then the lights are turning green… almost. The remaining two criteria you have more control over. It helps a lot if people within the organization, and especially the problem owner and his or her companions, see opportunities and have sufficient belief that exploiting some of these gives new perspective for the future. There must be enough confidence that innovating products or services will lead the organization through this period of pain.
Whether the innovation is renewal of existing products and services, something entirely new, another target group, another business model… it does not really matter. Keep all options open. Keep your playground really wide. One thing is for sure. There are great opportunities, but before you start searching you don’t know what you will find. For companies who want full control, this could be a dilemma you have to overcome. Therefore it is important that the problem owner has faith that there are plenty of opportunities. In contrast to the criterion of urgency, it is possible to help your owner problem here. If there is not sufficient belief, a fresh view from outside can deliver lots of opportunities within a few days.
This is the fifth and last criterion I use to determine to what extent I can deliver appreciated results. This one stands out from the previous four, and is simple but important: access to the problem owner. He or she is the one who feels the pain, has great influence on decision making, and is willing to explore new possibilities. The question is whether you are able to find a way to have an open, honest and respectful discussion with the problem owner, directly or after introduction. Ideally he or she should be willing to discuss the answer to the question “what keeps you awake at night”.
All articles in this series:
- Promising Hotspots for Business Development
(part one: introduction)
- How to Find Promising Hotspots for Business Development
(part two: the clues)
- When to Engage in Promising Hotspots for Business Development
(part three: the enablers)
- How to Model Hotspots for Business Development
(part four: the finish)